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Veteran radio host Sandy Dhuyvetter joins first team to Japan

Airline Ambassadors International joins Japan relief efforts

Sandy Dhuyvetter  Apr 24, 2011

Relief plans that included sending a first team to set up logistics began to be put into place almost immediately by Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) after the catastrophic events in Japan. As a recent addition to the board of directors of the AAI, it was my pleasure to get involved and, in fact, I was grateful for the opportunity.

My son, Eric, is a Japanese and International Business major at San Jose State University, and his love for Japan had deeply touched our family. His first trip to Japan was at 15 years of age. He received a scholarship to live with a family for 6 weeks in Fukushima, and he never forgot their generosity and the lovely area. Now it was our turn to say thank you to Japan.

AAI and its hundreds of flight attendants and other travel industry members support all efforts of relief. Working primarily in 3rd world countries, AAI collects and distributes thousands of tons of supplies to the needy and offers hope with medical treatment for many others. It’s efforts to stop child trafficking has been second to none, including the AAI training offered to all airline company employees and their crews to help recognize potential victims.

As we started the planning, that sometimes included daily conference calls with logistic partners, it became clear that Japan was going to be a different experience than Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Honduras.

Japanese logistics and distribution processes are far different than most other countries. "Just in Time," or commonly known as "JIT," is the reference to this process and is summed up simply - inventory is waste. In other words, everything is synchronized with demand. We found this to be true our first day - there was nothing random about the needed supplies, we found that workers concentrated on demand; this week it was powdered milk and towels, and the prior week, it was diapers. With the limited space in Japan, this multilayered system works. However, to relief workers it created some retooling of existing processes.

We finally got our marching orders after two weeks in the planning, and by that time, we were chomping at the bit to get to Tokyo and set up logistics for future missions. Leaving from San Francisco on an early Sunday morning, I arrived in Honolulu and spent the 7-hour layover with good friend and publisher Thomas Steinmetz of eTurboNews. We drove around the island and basked in the Hawaiian sun until it was time for me to leave for Tokyo. I couldn’t help but think of the contrast of Hawaii to North Japan. I wondered if Tokyo would show the affects of the 3 tragedies.

Meeting the rest of the 5-person team at the airport, we were ready to do this, but somehow the stars were still not aligned. After a malfunction on the airplane computer, we returned to Honolulu to regroup, board a new plane, and we were back in the air just six hours behind schedule. It seemed as though we would never arrive, but at 3:30 am on Tuesday morning, we safely came in via Hawaiian Airlines to Haneda airport and found energy-saving programs to be in place, meaning no transport vehicles were on the road until 6:00 am. We found this to be only a slight irritation as the train system began working at 6:15, 3 hours after we arrived. We were learning to be patient.

The train ride proved to be enlightening, and we found that life seemed to be carrying on as usual. There was normal capacity on the train, and the streets were busy with daily activities. We quickly put our personal belongings in our rooms after arriving at the Excel Hotel at Narita and then loaded 500 pounds of supplies to be taken to Helping Hands Tokyo. We arrived in downtown Tokyo were we worked with volunteers, sorting and packing towels for a trip up north. Soon we realized that our challenges were behind us. Within 32 hours, including a few hours of sleep, we were able to secure a warehouse through the generosity of AMB, open an office through the generosity of the Excel Hotel, and build a bridge with Helping Hands and 2nd Harvest Japan to secure transport of supplies. And we are very happy to share our warehouse space with the fine organizations of Japan. Currently, we have another 24 pallets ready to ship to Japan, and the generosity keeps coming.

Photos and other stories relating to Airline Ambassadors may be found at .

Airline Ambassadors International’s founder and now president is Nancy Rivard. Working as a flight attendant, Nancy saw a need for AAI almost 15 years ago. What started as a one-person crusade has now become one of the most revered NGOs in the travel industry. AAI tirelessly works for children, victims, and the less fortunate in many countries around the world.

Airline Ambassadors International joins Japan relief efforts
Sandy (left) lending helping hands to Japan relief efforts / Photo from S. Dhuyvetter

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